The word: what does “sustainability” really mean?


Sustainability. It’s a buzz word, a word we hear so often.

We hear it used by environmentalists, politicians, fortune 500 companies, and our hipster friends. We hear this word nearly every day and yet do we ever hear anyone really define it? Do we know what sustainability really means?

At Ember Arts we talk about sustainability quite a bit. It’s something we strive for, it’s in our mission statement, it’s what we value.

Now sustainability can mean something different to different people. But we wanted to let you in to the world of Ember, to what sustainability means to us.

What sustainability means to Ember Arts.

At Ember Arts we believe that sustainability applies to the way we care for the earth and also the people around us. We think it’s so important to create products in ways that will protect natural resources, promote reusing and up-cycling materials, and discourage waste. 

We also believe that sustainability should not just be an ecological goal, but also a relational one. At Ember Arts, we want to build sustainable relationships with people — friendships that last and thrive. By being compassionate, steadfast, and authentic we believe that whole communities of people can work together to achieve positive social change. 

“Sustainability is our long term goal. We want Ember Arts to be a launching point for the women we work with in Uganda and for our family and staff here in America. We want to see their time with Ember build skill sets, confidence, and self worth that allows them to move forward, dream big, and accomplish any goal.”

- Jessica Connolly, Ember Arts Co-Founder

We are enabling 28 Ugandan women to live sustainable lives.

When you really break it down, the word sustainable is all about support, strength, longevity, and the ability to continually survive and thrive. This is what Ember Arts strives to be for our Ugandan partners. Before Ember Arts existed, our artisans worked in a rock quarry where they would sit in the hot sun with a makeshift hammer, pounding stones into gravel. Making less than $1 a day, the women were barely able to stay alive.

Now, with the money they make from Ember Arts, the women’s lives are being sustained. They have enough food on the table, they’re building homes, their children are going to school, and they are investing money into new businesses. These women, their families, and their entire community are now living sustainable lives.


How we practice sustainability in our business.

Although we’re not perfect, and we’re learning new business practices everyday, Ember Arts does several things in an effort to be sustainable.

For instance, we have a tiny office with just the essentials, enabling us to keep our wastes to a minimum and save  on resources like electricity and water.

Most of us who work at Ember Arts, live in the community where our office is, which means we ride our bikes and walk to work. Sustainable commuting!

And probably the most important way we incorporate sustainability in our business is through the design of our jewelry. Apart from things like metal clasps and earring hooks, all of the materials we use in creating Ember jewelry are up-cycled and recycled goods. Using materials that are locally sourced like recycled paper, seeds, and wood, our designs are extremely sustainable, cost effective, and leave no waste.

Next time you hear the word sustainability, ask yourself what it could mean, and what you can do to practice sustainable living.

Ember Ambassadors West Coast Road Trip!

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Did you know that Ember Arts is a family owned and operated business?

Clayton and Jessica Connolly (together with their parents, daughters, siblings, an artist in Uganda, and a couple of college students) bring life to the business and story of Ember Arts. Together they are empowering dreamers and working to build a compassionate, sustainable network of individuals who can make a positive impact in their world.

During the whole month of August the Connolly family is taking the Ember Arts story and hitting the road. They’re calling this adventure the Ember Ambassadors West Coast Road Trip.

Read some more about Ember Ambassadors as the Connolly’s share their plans for their road trip:

What are three reasons why you are taking your family and your business on a month-long road trip? 

1. We simply love being on the road and seeing new places. Our girls have so much fun playing road games like “I Spy” and blasting music while singing along. We also believe that traveling to new places and seeing new sites is so enriching to young minds. We want our daughters to grow up knowing how big the world is and valuing every single person they come across during life.

2. Ember Arts is in a stage of expansion, a time when we are striving to grow our business and further our sphere of influence. Simply put, we want to see our jewelry sold in more stores, so we’re going out adventuring in search of those new partners.

3. Also, from past experiences we’ve learned that individuals are more likely to purchase a product when they can shake the hand of the person who is selling. We so value meeting with people face to face, sharing stories, and building relationships. We want to be as authentic and intentional as possible when interacting with our partners and customers. What a better way to build relationships than to simply stop by and say hi.

Meet the Connolly family - Clayton, Jessica, Kairah, Shiloh, and River. If you're on the West Coast, be keeping your eyes out for them.

Meet the Connolly family – Clayton, Jessica, Kairah, Shiloh, and River. If you’re on the West Coast, be keeping your eyes out for them.

Give us a glimpse into your travel plans. What will you be doing? 

Our plan is to drive up the West Coast of the United States, starting in our home base of  San Diego and ending in Seattle. We are hoping to stop in as many towns and cities as possible, meeting with retail store owners. We’ll shake lots of hands, pass out business cards, and give away free jewelry, all with the intention of sharing the Ember Arts story.

Your road trip sounds amazing! How can I join in on the fun? 

We would love to have you become a part of the Ember Ambassadors story. Here a couple of ways you can join us.

1. Follow us on Instagram (@emberarts) and on Facebook (search Ember Arts) to see fun photos of our trip.

2. Help us make our travel plans, tell us where we should go! Do you have a favorite boutique, bookstore, or gift shop on the West Coast that you think should sell Ember Arts jewelry? Let us know and we’ll try to stop by that store. You can send us your thoughts by emailing or commenting on any of our social media posts.

Designing Jewelry, Inspiring Dreams


This is Emily Grace Goodrich — designer and dreamer. She is the creative mind behind Ember Arts and has served as our jewelry designer in Kampala, Uganda for the past five years. She brings color, vibrancy, and ingenuity to both our products and the Ember Arts story.

Not a single day is the same for Emily, living in Uganda, though every morning she wakes to the sound of chickens clucking. She will often take a white minivan taxi into town to visit the Owina Market, where she searches for used paper and old books to use in Ember Arts designs. Several times a week she travels to the outskirts of the city to a neighborhood called Acholi Quarters, where the women of Ember Arts work and live. Emily is there to conduct meetings and train the women on crafting jewelry. It is a lifestyle she loves — something so much more than a job.

We are so very proud to have Emily on our team and are grateful for the beauty she brings to the Ember Arts family.

Ember Arts: You studied Interdisciplinary Studio Arts in college – do any of the skills you learned in school influence the way you design Ember Arts jewelry?

Emily Goodrich: I think there are similarities in some ways. I mostly studied painting and photography, but things like color and pattern and line are applicable across all creative fields. I think my designs are a lot more influenced by the ebb and flow of materials into Uganda. It’s tricky to figure out which jewelry components will be available in the local markets consistently; and so more and more, I’m trying to look toward alternative sorts of materials. 

emilyWhat is something you’ve learned from the Ugandan women you work with?

I’ve definitely learned a lot about hospitality and resilience from them, but lately, we’ve been learning together the value of celebration. This last year has had its fair share of bumps and challenges for the group and for individuals in it, but we’ve decided to start bringing a little fun into our meetings. We threw a small party the last time an order shipped to the U.S., and had refreshments and played a few silly games. The ladies have decided that this should be standard: they’re usually focused on business, and they realized that it’s important to enjoy each other’s presence.


When you talk to your friends and family in America, what is one thing you wish they would know or understand about the state of life in Uganda? 

No matter how many times I say otherwise, people still think I live in a mud hut. There are certainly people here that do, but Uganda is growing and changing. It’s a place of strange juxtapositions.

Uganda has its fair share of dirt roads, slums, and political struggles, but every single one of the women we work with has a mobile phone, and they know how to send text messages and mobile money. A lot of them have TVs and stereos in their homes, and are sitting and watching Columbian telenovelas and other international television shows during lunch. There are also opportunities for entrepreneurs and enterprising folks everywhere. 

This is why I think the work that we’re doing at Ember Arts  is so important. Most of the Ember ladies are content to move back to the village one day, but their children are going to inherit this new world of technology and rapidly changing information — even here in Uganda. When these women who we work with are able to send their kids  to secondary schools and universities, I think it helps to ensure those children a voice in the future of their country.

There is a lot of room to do some good in the world with our purchasing power.


Someday you’ll be moving away from Kampala. What’s next on your list of adventures? What are you dreaming of doing? 

I really enjoy “making things,” so I think I’ll always be interested in the way that human beings interact with one another as consumers and producers. There is a lot of room to do some good in the world with our purchasing power. There are also a lot of ways to do harm. Eventually, I’d love to figure out how to make those ideas more accessible to people, especially when the assumption is that things like organic and fair trade have to equal expensive. There’s a whole lot for me to think through before I have any concrete steps, but I’ve been fortunate to have some amazing experiences in those areas. I’d love to share them in a tangible way, with a blog or maybe even a retail space.

What is one piece of advice you can give to others who are dreaming of making a positive impact on the world? 

Stop dreaming about it, and just start moving forward. I often find myself getting stuck in the realm of “maybe someday,” and I’m learning that even baby steps will get you there faster than waiting for the right time or enough resources. If you need money, start putting change in a jar. If you’re waiting for more free time, spend just fifteen minutes a day working toward that goal. Little things add up.


Life. On the road.

Right now we are driving through the rain; slowly and steadily approaching the Kansas state line.  We are about a week and a half and 5 states away from our home.  My U.S. geography is coming back!

So here is what our world looks like:

two kids that now call our traveling caravan home,

one Tahoe packed full with Ember jewelry and displays,

a roof box that holds our clothes and is collecting stickers from our favorite places,

and a Viking trailer that folds up and down like an accordion.

Somewhere in all of that we are finding a rhythm to everyday life on the road.  Like knowing where the diapers are at all times, or making sure the top hatch in the trailer is closed when a lightening storm and downpour comes out of nowhere in the late afternoon.  Twice.

We figure that most days we will find a campsite as home base and unfold the Viking while we visit a new town and meet with an Ember account.  And there will also be the occasional night where we will appreciate the reprieve of a hotel room to clean up and do some laundry.   And then there will be days where in order to cover some ground, we need to drive late into the night and we will just transfer the sleeping babes into the half pitched Viking for a quick over night stop.

A couple of nights ago was one of those nights.  We were nearing the end of an epic drive through southern Utah.  We had stayed in breathtaking Zion for a couple nights, then were awed by the hoodoos of Bryce canyon, and were on our way to Arches National Park before crossing the state line into Colorado.  It was late when we pulled into Torrey, Utah hungry and tired.  At this point we hadn’t quite worked out dinner on the fly outside the Viking’s small kitchen area .  (Don’t worry, we have since coined the term “road-dillas” thanks to the Colman stove and a few tortillas).  Against all odds we found the only restaurant open at that hour in the tiny town.  Diablo cafe quickly seated us and served one of the best meals we have ever had.  This place is a diamond in the rough with two professional chefs creating unique southern style dishes.  Better yet, our waitress suggested a close by spot where we could pull over and camp below the radar.  She instructed us to go to the end of a nearby dirt road and park anywhere and not to worry because it’s BLM land.  I’m still not sure what that means.

So we found this little spot and although we agreed that it was a little too close for comfort to the few surrounding homes, we were too tired to switch course and we popped the Viking just enough to fit inside.  Meanwhile another car pulled up, intending to do the same. It was a little awkward, but as soon as we decided we were safe, we all climbed in and hunkered down for the night.

Within an hour both Clay and I woke up to the sound of a raging windstorm ripping through the canvas of the Viking.  It sounded like large objects were being thrown against our small trailer.  It was impossible to sleep and we spent the night checking in with each other every hour or so wondering if the whole trailer was going to blow over.  Luckily the girls slept through the whole thing.  So when the sun finally rose, they were bright eyed, rested and full of energy and we crawled out of the trailer about the same time the people in the car next to us did…all feeling like we had been beat up.

So on we went, laughing about our attempt at some quick free camping.  Later that day we crossed the Colorado state line and wound our way up to Gunnison, a small town nestled in the beautiful Rocky mountains.  We met with Western State College and introduced them to the Ember story and welcomed Deb and the bookstore staff to the family of Ember retailers.

Driving down the east side of the Rockies, we got an invitation to stay at the Peace home.  6 years ago when we moved to Shell Beach the first thing we did was inquire about a bright red VW bus for sale on the side of the road.  This led us to the home of Jeff and Terri Peace and thus began our friendship and our bus story. Little did we know they had moved to Greeley CO, and they had answered our call for places to stay.  We enjoyed warm beds, laundry and Colorado brewed beer for a few days before hitting the open road to the mid-west; uncharted territory for both of us.

To be continued…

Acholi Beads Holiday Open House: Shell Beach

As requested by many of our supporters, Acholi Beads will be hosting an open house to show of our new inventory that has recently arrived from Kampala. We invite you to come and learn about our socially proactive business and meet our new beadmakers. This is a great opportunity to finish your last minute Christmas shopping!

When: Friday Decemeber 21st, 5pm to 8pm
Where: 238 Santa Fe Ave. Shell Beach, CA.
Contact: Jessica Connolly

61st annual Pismo Beach Clam Festival

Acholi beads will make an appearance at the 61st annual Pismo Beach clam festival this weekend. The festival takes place each year at the Pismo Beach pier and the surrounding area at the end of Pomeroy street. The event will run Saturday October 20th and Sunday the 21st from 9am to 5pm and feature both vendors and musicians from all over California. Come see our new selection of paper bead neckalces, bracelets and earings!